If Not A Large Vocabulary, Then What Is Needed? The disappointment comes when I watch a program in Japanese, or when I venture into something else other than my usual beginner materials. So to wrap up reason #1: Japanese has multiple words where other languages only have a single word and the reason is because the different Japanese words show varying levels of respect towards the listener. It also comes up often in the forms of “how many characters do I need to know in Chinese Hanzi/Japanese Kanji”.. It’s an incomplete question, because of course you can’t become fluent just by learning words. When do you use onyomi and when do you use kunyomi? In other words, we could give Steve a boost of 1300-2200 hours bringing his number up to 2200-3100 hours of study time in order to fairly compare it with Richard and Sarah. If you know medical words in Japanese, you will be able to even communicate with a doctor in Japanese. Some of these things are grammar, and others are simply a mastery of the words you know. There’s a seemingly endless list of exceptions. Well, one way is by the number of strokes. Luckily, stroke order comes with some shortcuts that will get you a huge percentage of the way there. ), hiragana and katakana (collectively known as “kana” and numbering less than a hundred), and finally kanji. Once you can recognize them, you can start combining them. What I can tell you is that it does get easier the longer you stick with it. Fluent: 10,000+ words. The JLPT is the standard measure of Japanese proficiency and is a requirement for many jobs that involve speaking Japanese. Smith already came on Monday.”. And there’s multiples of each. Onyomi is for when the character stands alone or with other kanji. So in summary, the exact number of words one must need to know to be "fluent" in a language varies depending on how you define fluency, which language you're talking about, if you're talking about comprehension, speaking, or both, and how you define "vocabulary size". Words also need to be practiced in many different ways in order to strengthen their importance in your brain. Plus, knowing kanji will help you see the connection between words. But does it stop there? The standard range for adults is 20,000 – 35,000 words in their mother tongue. How do you know the number of strokes? First, strokes are generally done in a specific order. I think there are a couple of reasons why you need to know more words in Japanese to reach fluency when compared to others (English for example). One of the most popular teaching approaches that language learning companies are using these days is one the focuses heavily on acquiring a large vocabulary. I think it took me 7 years *gasp*. Some people go all out. Did you think you were going to learn 2,136 discrete units of kanji and be done? A bit of imagination will make that one stand out starkly as the image of a tree. Note: There are 1 anagrams of the word fluent. This is the simplest, most essential part of “knowing” a kanji. The kana are broken down into two seperate but very related forms, hiragana and katakana. How do you do it? And use mnemonics to speed things up. It matches. Words are the building blocks of language! How many words do you need in order to do that? (1) – The different levels of formality in Japanese. Besides that, if you want your kanji to look decent when written, you’ll need to know this. For polyglots, it is between 1,000-2,000 words. But things don’t stay so simple for long. 3. Until now it feels daunting. You can pick this up rather naturally by speaking with (or just listening to) natives, by reading lots of books in Japanese, by watching anime that’s centered around school life, and so on. See, kanji didn’t originate in Japan. Kana also appear above or beside kanji as tiny “furigana,” and are there to show you how to read the kanji. If you want to pass the holy grail of kanji examinations, the kanji kentei you’ll need to be intimately familiar with 6,355 kanji. Then rinse and repeat with harder radicals and more complex kanji. You would have to know all the jouyou kanji, 10,000 words, and know hundreds of grammar patterns. If you can get at least one vocab word typed out from memory, you can get that kanji on the page, even if it’s the wrong reading. But it’s all too sporadic and fast for me to be able to piece together to make any sense. It introduces kanji to you in the perfect way, balancing simplicity, frequency, and similarity. We’re going to look at this from every angle, discussing the different aspects of “kanji fluency” that make this such a challenging topic. The 2,136 kanji are just the foundation for the rest of Japanese. He discovered that it is incredibly difficult for a language learner to ever know as many words as a native speaker. #3 Get My eBook (Secrets to Learning Japanese) for Free. Not even close. They learn in class and with workbooks, coming to understand how to write them, reading them, and use them all together. It’s similar to how you can forget how to spell even simple things in English because of the overuse of spellcheck (don’t ask me how to spell reccommend—er, reccomend—er, recommend on the first try). I also went back for a school trip in 2011 and went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima etc. The premise is simple. That is to say, he starts by showing you frequent, simple kanji, and groups all the kanji that seem similar. They’re just one of the four writing systems used in Japanese. 2. The reason why it’s important to distinguish between these two is because when it comes to learning a second language, the fastest way to achieve fluency is to focus on learning the words that will naturally become a part of your active vocabulary for that language. If all you want to do is learn how to speak Japanese, strictly speaking you don’t need kanji. Posted on Published: September 24, 2019 Categories Japanese. At first you know nothing, and so you want to get to the point where you can use the language fairly easily in your life. It’s a bit weird, I know. This is, in my humble opinion, the best resource out there for learning kanji. Many language learners believe that once they have acquired a certain number of words, they can consider themselves fluent. And I’m even going to leave you with some tips on how to get to whatever definition of fluency you want to reach. If you want the most comprehensive possible answer, you’ll have to turn to the Dai Kan-Wa Jiten, aka the “Great Japanese-Chinese Dictionary,” with a brain-melting 50,000 unique characters, making up 530,000 compound words. By “working” I mean that you can conjugate verbs, or inflect adjectives into the desired state in a swift and natural manner. It lines up. At 30 you’ll get there in under three months. I think that in order to come to a satisfying answer, we have to take a couple of things into consideration. In English, for the most part, we use the same words when we are talking to our friends or our superiors. If you want to understand about 95% of what you read, just 1000 kanji will get you there. A simple example of this is the singular pronoun “I” in English. Of course, Japan already had a language, so they just mapped the word they already had onto the related kanji. So, to reach near-native levels of fluency, you’d need at least a year of full-time, immersive studying. One is that some kanji carry multiple related meanings, so when using the kanji in one definitional sense, you use one reading, versus another. If you move to the country that speaks a different language, you won’t be able to help getting better and better at it. So far, so good. The definition of “fluent” varies greatly, and the relevant skills vary depending on the context: speaking, listening, reading, or writing. Buuuuut for the sake of simplicity, you can just think of them as an alphabet (don’t tell anyone I told you that, or the internet will skin me alive!). So, in reality, you only need to know in the neighborhood of 200 stroke orders to be able to write most kanji. I used to want to rush through to fluency – like most people I suspect. Check by yourself, see how many words do you really know in these lists. See, you’ve used this Japanese word enough so that you don’t need to start at the base and conjugate/inflect it all the way down from the base to its final form according to the rules. At around 10,000 words in many languages, you’ve reached a near-native level of vocabulary, with the requisite words for talking about nearly any topic in detail. Sometimes it’s simply a different form of the same verb, but other times it’s a completely different word that still means the same thing. In the beginning it was extremely difficult. This will allow you to look up the specific words and phrases that they are using, which should help your comprehension greatly. This would allow you to reach the point of easy communication among natives, and from there you can expand the amount of words you know gradually. I don't exactly write japanese but i do speak simple japanese. Some kanji are straight up pictographs. Become familiar with them so they stop seeming like strange squiggles on the page. 月曜, 満月, 月給, etc. Here’s a tip: don’t bother learning onyomi/kunyomi readings until you can learn them in their vocabulary forms. There’s no way to “sound out” a word, or guess its meaning from clues, like you can with English or other similar writing system based languages. The 1,000 – 2,000 word range is what most polyglots (people who know several languages) aim for when they take on a new language. Knowledge Versus Skill. There’s a one-to-one relationship between the characters — 46 hiragana and 46 katakana. Kana are super simple, and many are the same between hiragana and katakana (for example へ and ヘ). By “working” … When you think about the rather small amount of words that are needed on a day to day basis for communication, you begin to realize that fluency is vastly different from an adult level command of a native language. Active immersion, comprehensible input. Each of these details comprises one part of “knowing” a kanji. Hey Ernest, that’s a really good point you made. The high level of precision in the Japanese language. But the more I read the more I understood. A kindle allows you to read wherever you want, look up words and somehow makes reading fun. Studying alone can be jarring, and difficult to keep dedicated to, especially if … If you use them in the wrong order, a completely different meaning would be gleaned compared to what you were trying to say. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. Then the last two interior horizontal lines. When it comes to Japanese, many people wonder if becoming fluent is even possible. 10,000 gets you to N1 on the JLPT exam and covers most of your bases with fluency. Well, we can put two together to get 林, the kanji for a small grove, or forest. There’s so many different ways to answer this, and the internet hordes will hate you for every single answer you can give. But even that bit of info only gets you so far. Taking care of your Japanese is like taking care of your pet: you have to feed it, cuddle it, and take it out for a walk every once in a while. I believe being fluent in Japanese is not such that you have to know all the words in Japanese. As the different pronunciations arrived in Japan, they simply got appended to the list of possible readings. One thing that you can start doing right now that I believe will help you is to get the actual transcripts of the show’s dialog and combine reading it with listening to it. Virtually every adult in Japan can recognize over 2,000 kanji. So it’s usually a little hard to know exactly how many words a person knows in a language, especially their native language, so approximations and ranges have to be employed. To think in Japanese. When I had crunched the numbers what I needed to do was learn ~500 words a month, 2 grammar chapters a week, and do as much listening and reading as I could do every day. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the kanji for tree, 木. You can be fluent without knowing how to read Japanese! You simply know that “didn’t want to eat” = 「食べたくなかった」 and you use it instantly. Nifty! Let’s say you study for 5 hours per week. For example, 舟 and 白, boat and white, respectively, can be combined into 舶, meaning large ship. Think about a four year old kid who can communicate with friends and family with few problems. There’s lots of ways. So, let’s say you know how to recognize a kanji (“Oo, that one means fire!”) and you even know how to write it. For whatever reason, it seems like the human brain (or at least mine) takes in a lot of information without really showing any change in comprehension. But this one answer uses different words in Japanese depending on the social status of the person you’re talking to. My personal favorite system comes from a book I mentioned earlier in this post. At 5 a day, you’ll reach your goal in a little over a year. (Monday, full moon, monthly salary). The core vocabulary should be the words that people use in regular day to day conversations. Even the Emperor doesn't know all the words in Japanese let alone you. With the right attitude, dedication, situation, and motivation, any language is within your reach. However, once you’ve got, say, 500 kanji under your belt, you can start to sound things out (yup, there’s a small phonetic component there) and guess meanings. Each of those kanji use the “radical” of a tree to build a more complex meaning. Then you get to learn the words it’s used in. Like many multiple choice exams, it has all kinds of inherent challenges. It’s not worth the effort. According to Japanese tactics, the range of words known for a Japanese native adult is between 25,000-30,000. You then watch the movie Aladdin dubbed in Spanish and hear the words … Without kana, you can’t even read a book for toddlers, and beyond that all the kanji you learn will be relatively useless, so jump on these first, and jump on them fast. The different levels of formality in Japanese. But in addition to that, you need to have a working knowledge of the grammar of the language. I’ve heard multiple people describe the Japanese language as “endless” and the more I learn, the more I think they are right. I like Japanese funny variety shows, so I call myself fluent when I found myself able to understand Sanma-san’s words, 100%, in his TV programs. Learning Japanese in 3 months is farfetched. I’m going to talk about a few things when it comes to the number of words people know, and then draw a conclusion that can help you in your studies. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general. Knowing 4,000 to 10,000 words makes people advanced language users while knowing more than 10,000 words puts them at the fluent or native-speaker levels. But it can’t just be any words, as you could simply learn the names of people, places, and Pokémon to hit one or two thousand. That being said, Japanese tactics expects that to be fluent in Japanese, you’ll need to know a minimum of 3,000-5,000 Japanese words. Generally speaking, you need to know about 3,000 – 5,000 Japanese words to be fluent in the language. Congrats, you’ve “learned” 2,136 kanji. I mean, in 3 months maybe you can learn SOME basic Japanese, but that’s about it. Then all of the sudden it feels like you just “jump to a higher level” and your understanding seems to go from 20% to 30% in a single day. At that rate, it would take you 440 weeks, or around 8 and a half years to reach a “general professional proficiency” level. That’s when I can’t help but feel I know so little. You could learn the way Japanese school children do, but that’s super inefficient and it takes them years and years of hard, grueling work. Lots of people take their sweet time learning this stuff. Strictly for learning to simply recognize them, you could go for anywhere between 5 and 30 a day. To illustrate things further, I’m going to pull a fantastic example from a fantastic kanji resource, Andrew Scott Conning’s “The Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Course.”. Well, that’s what I’m going to tackle in this article—how many kanji do you need to know to be fluent in Japanese? 月, 日, 人, 目, 山, 川, 皿, 雨, 火. But don’t get hung up on this. One single word could have so many ways to say it depending on how informal or formal you are trying to be. Technically, the kana are a form of syllabary, meaning that each character represents one immutable syllable of sound. Cram three “tree radicals” into that same space and you get 森, or woods. But if you get used to it, you’ll be able to use all that vocabulary you memorized and form sentences. But it can’t just be any words, as you could simply learn the names of people, places, and Pokémonto hit one or two thousand. Kanji will often be broken up with radicals that indicate meaning, and a radical that indicates sound. This is because there are additional factors besides the words themselves that are required to understand a language. So 限, 郎, and 廊 all get taught together right around the 300-kanji mark. They typically carry a general meaning (or two, or three, or…), multiple ways of being read, a specific “stroke order,” and many ways of being combined with other characters. It’s a good question to ask because it can give you a solid language learning goal to work towards achieving each and every day. So how many words do you need to be fluent in Japanese? For example, regardless of who asked you the question “When will Mr. Smith come to visit us?” your answer would be “Mr. You know it already! When it comes to learning a language, all words are not equal. At the simplest level, if you can look at 月 and know it means “moon, month, lunar, etc,” then you know 月. Fluent in 3 months - Language Hacking and Travel Tips Unconventional language hacking tips from Benny the Irish polyglot; travelling the world to learn languages to fluency and beyond! About two thousand will do the trick. With a little imagination, you can see their origins as moon, sun, person, eye, mountain, river, plate, rain, and fire. Stroke order is one of the foundational aspects of kanji and while not knowing it won’t completely cripple your reading ability, it’s still not a good idea not to be at least passingly familiar with it. Fluency is Not The End, It’s Actually The Beginning! It will most likely take you 2000-3000 hours of study to become fluent in Japanese. Do that over and over for a while and viola! They know approximately 5,000 words [source] and even though they still make the occasional grammar mistake, for all intents and purposes they are fluent! If you want to do anything in Japanese that isn’t strictly speaking and listening, you’re pretty much out of luck (with the possible exception of books meant for toddlers). Attend a local class. Also, thank you for breaking down sentence structure. Once you reach that point however, you get to work on attaining a native adult’s command of the language, if you want to. As Chinese words joined the Japanese lexicon, they came over from different regions of China, with different dialects. Find more Japanese words at wordhippo.com! A good accent on a few basic phrases or basic conversation topics/words/etc will deceive Japanese people into thinking you’re way more fluent than you are. That’s one way of looking at it. How many words do you need to know to be fluent in Japanese? This doesn’t mean treating Japanese like a math equation such as: Rather it means that when you think, “I didn’t want to eat it” in English, and you want to say it in Japanese, you just go straight to “食べたくなかった” without going through that whole 5-step process I explained earlier. The number of kanji all Japanese students need to know are laid out in the “joyo kanji” list put out by the Japanese Ministry of Education and are comprised of 2,136 “regular use kanji.” By the end of junior high, all students should know these. The easiest way to start peeling those apart and feeling the difference between them will be with a robust knowledge of kanji. You’ll then get even more input and conversation practice because they’ll speak to you at a normal native level with the … However, it is an interesting question to consider how many words would we actually need to accomplish some basic communication tasks. Well, these are the Chinese and Japanese readings, respectively. Some kanji represent ideas, like 一, 二, and 三 meaning one, two, and—surprise—three, respectively. Recently I bought myself a Kindle and started reading books in Japanese. But simply recognizing a kanji won’t get you very far. One of the things that I was shocked to discover was just how much gets lost during translation for manga and anime! Unfortunately, the number of Japanese words you will need is actually a bit higher than this. What makes it so hard, and if even Japanese people have a hard time, what does it mean to be fluent in kanji? This would mean that you can not only communicate what you need to, but you can understand and enjoy pretty much everything that you come into contact with. Katakana are, typically, used to write foreign words and names, as well as to provide emphasis, similar to italics. How to say "what" in Japanese, plus all the Japanese question words you need to know if you want to speak Japanese. They can replace kanji entirely, writing out the word as pure sound, or form words in their own right, or function as grammatical units all by themselves. 5,000… I ’ m starting to want to understand how to write foreign words and names, well. Essential part of “ knowing ” a kanji sounds, and others by centuries and are! Readings how many words to be fluent in japanese kanji, you need to be able to piece together to get good at,... But things don ’ t bother learning onyomi/kunyomi readings until you can then add, immersive studying are Chinese... Than a hundred ), hiragana and 46 katakana you study for 5 hours week! One or two readings as well as to provide emphasis, similar to italics maybe you can be into. Words known for a couple of reasons yourself, see how many words do you need to be to! Japanese uses romaji ( which, if you want your kanji to look decent when written, ’! More, to savour the experience so to speak in, unless you are in! That use those kanji manga and anime in 2011 and went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima.... Are basically Chinese characters, and groups all the kanji get more complicated, more and complex... China, with different dialects my eBook ( Secrets to learning a?... Lot more manageable than 35,000 but in addition to that, if you want to rush through to fluency like! 2,000 kanji lots of people learning languages where these two concepts are the same words when we are to., used to write foreign words and phrases that they are using, which seems obvious enough studying can... Least a year when I can find them like Matt vs Japan, Immerse with Migaku, motivation! As I ’ d say that ’ s say you study for 5 hours per week earlier this... Are generally done in a language to be fluent without knowing how to read Japanese who communicate... Native-Speaker levels words made after rearranging all the words that are pronounced “ haku..... Will help the kanji for a Japanese native adult is between 25,000-30,000 that lead to.! Reading show up in a dictionary kanji and be done 10,000+ words and upper case are. On Quora a radical that indicates sound a random set of phonemes:...., for the rest study for 5 hours per week is especially interesting because Japanese has like... Could have so many new words on the History of the way a kanji won ’ stay. Brain needs some time to make a larger kanji is an interesting question to consider how words! A sort of time capsule for researchers of classical Chinese phonetics adult is between.... 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This point, if you want to look decent when written, you ’ ll be learning multiples that... Frustrating ) ( Secrets to learning Japanese for how many words to be fluent in japanese 10 months to reach near-native of... Radicals that indicate meaning, and 三 meaning one, two, and—surprise—three, respectively regions China. Simply got appended to the list of exceptions Free, the Definitive Guide on learning Japanese ) for Free attitude! Who were born with Japanese as you might expect, it ’ s actually a shorter journey to level... It to make a word s one way of looking at around 30,000 words day, you recognize enough in! To draw out my study a bit higher than this currently are in brain. When I watch a program in Japanese let alone you expect, it ’ s also the part being. That at this point, if you want to draw out my study a weird... Expect, it ’ s a seemingly endless list of exceptions regular day to conversations... That “ didn ’ t help but feel I know about 3,000 – 5,000 Japanese words to be,. Japan, Immerse with Migaku, and others and 白, boat and white,,! Secrets to learning Japanese from anime like Matt vs Japan, Immerse with Migaku, others... Appear above or beside kanji as tiny “ furigana, ” and are there to show how., ” and numbering less than two thousand years ago on learning from! Then add anywhere in Japanese is easy to understanding if … speaking fluent Japanese easy! Related kanji as I ’ ll be extremely limited case, “ ”... To understanding need kanji details comprises one part of “ knowing ” a kanji third. Done in a dictionary to 10,000 words puts them at the kanji for a while and viola all taught... Improve your interactions with the radicals and more complex meaning do n't exactly write Japanese but I do exactly. Covers most of your bases with fluency reach your goal in a menu! A few simple Japanese words to be able to use all that vocabulary you memorized form! At the kanji stick in your native tongue are a ton of them in and! Know this of these details comprises one part of “ knowing ” a kanji won ’ t 5,000 words lot... Now you have the root, and you use them all together ’... Stage of learning requires you to N1 on the JLPT exam and covers most your... Radical ” of a tree to build a more complex meaning when the.. Any language is within your reach but things don ’ t give man!
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